When the Smith’s bought their home in 1995, they had three children and one on the way.

They loved the neighborhood and liked the house. It was in fairly good condition, though it had not been updated since it was built in 1973.

Split Level Home Updated for more gathering space 2

The home before the remodel. (Daniel Barton)

They fell in love with the lot and the view. They knew that with a little remodeling and tweaking of the floor plan they could stay there for a long time.

“Our family was growing, and looking forward to adding future spouses and grandkids some day, it was obvious that it (our family) wasn’t going to get any smaller,” says Tiffany Smith. “We decided to bump it (the house) out for extra room to gather and breathe.”

Tiffany and her husband came to us to help them develop a master plan and get their ideas down on paper. At this point they weren’t ready to start construction, but they needed a plan to stay focused on their overall goal for their house.

Split Level home updated for more gathering space 1

The exterior of this split-level home was updated by adding a new porch and entry stairs. In addition, the aluminum siding was replaced with brick and cement fiber board siding. (Daniel Barton)

A few years and two more babies later, they had a family of eight and were financially and emotionally ready to start the remodeling process.

They divided the project into four phases. Phase 1 was an addition to enlarge the family room, and Phase 2 was to relocate and enlarge the kitchen. Phase 3 was to update the exterior curb appeal of the front of the house, and Phase 4 involved renovating the master suite. They ended up blending Phase 1 and Phase 2 once they got into the construction process. “I couldn’t imagine stopping and starting again down the road,” Tiffany says. “We just wanted that part of the house finished.”

The addition created 400 square feet on the main floor and duplicated the space in the basement. On the main floor they had the space to create a great room which included their kitchen remodel.

The old kitchen was a galley kitchen, but it also served as a hallway, which was the only access to the family room at the rear of the home. Any time the dishwasher or the refrigerator was open, there was a major road block.

“Now there is a dedicated pathway to the great room,” she says. “We don’t have to have the company come through the kitchen to get to the gathering area.”

Prior to the remodel, the laundry room and the pantry were combined. “Before, the kids would throw all their dirty clothes on the washer, just inches away from all of our food,” she says. “I didn’t realize how weird that was until now that they are separated. I love it.”

The original downstairs family room was the typical of many dark basement spaces in Utah. “It was more like a bomb shelter — very dark and cave-like,” Tiffany says. “No one wanted to go down there.”

Because of the large span of their children’s ages, they wanted to create a friendly, safe and cheerful place where some of the children and their friends could hang out. They added light with large windows and window wells, as well as a walk-out door with the basement addition. Now it is a secondary gathering space that is used every day.

The Smith’s also decided to move right into Phase 3 and give their split entry home’s exterior a face-lift. The narrow, dangerous stairs from the driveway to the small porch were removed. A new porch and much more gracious entry stairs were constructed. They replaced the dated 1970’s yellow brick and sea-foam green aluminum siding with red brick and cement fiber board siding to create an updated yet traditional look that blends in well with the existing neighborhood.

The exterior update also extended into the landscaping. Living on the side of the foothills, their backyard was steeply terraced with multiple layers of retaining walls. They were approached by their excavation contractor. “He had a project down the road from us that need fill dirt,” Tiffany explains. “We were looking to get rid of some dirt to level out the yard. It just worked out, so we decided to go for it.”

Previously, it wasn’t a usable yard for kids. “There wasn’t really anywhere to kick a ball,” she says. “We love the new yard now.”

The Smiths don’t see themselves moving anytime soon. “We joke around about our burial plots being in the backyard,” she laughs. However, they are not quite finished. “Phase 4 is our master suite,” she says. “But that will be down the road.”

They still have some recovering to do. You see, the Smiths and their six children lived in their home throughout the construction. She has several tips on how she survived a year in the construction zone. Next week’s column will continue her story.

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.

Renovation Solutions: Split-level home updated for a more gathering space